Three months ago, only the most avid golf fan knew his name.
The 21-year-old Indian finished 69th out of 147 players at the final stage of 2017 European Tour Qualifying School, but that didn’t stop him in 2018. His season started with a top-10 in Hong Kong and was quickly followed by two wins at the Joburg Open and the Maybank Championship, leading to his World Golf Championship (WGC) debut in Mexico. The Panchkula-resident then finished tied seventh at this season’s Hero Indian Open.
Here’s more about Shubhankar Sharma.
- He is from the same town as Jeev Milkha Singh
Shubhankar Sharma grew up in Chandigarh, the same town as Jeev Milkha Singh — a 4-time European Tour winner — who provided him inspiration and support. “I grew up watching so many successful Indian golfers complete on the world stage,” Sharma said. “Jeev has always been very helpful in sharing his experience on everything and was one of the first to congratulate me when I won in Joburg.”
- He has eight professional wins
Sharma has 8 professional titles to his name over the last 4 years. His first came on the Professional Golf Tour of India in 2014 when he took home the PGTI Cochin Masters. 5 more PGTI wins followed before he triumphed at the Joburg Open late last year. A final round 62 at Saujana Country Club in February gave him a two-shot victory for his eighth win and put him atop the Race to Dubai rankings.
- He is India’s No. 1 golfer
Following his win in Malaysia, Sharma jumped ahead of fellow countryman Anirban Lahiri in the Official Golf World Rankings to become India’s highest ranked male golfer. The next goal for the 21-year-old will be surpassing Jeev Milkha Singh’s highest ranking of 28th and becoming the highest ranked male Indian golfer ever.
- He was formerly No. 1 ranked junior
Before making headlines on the European Tour, Sharma had a stellar junior career in his home country. Prior to turning professional in 2013, Sharma won the All India Amateur Championship at the age of just 16.
- His first club was a two-iron
For most golfers, the first club they receive is a putter or a wedge. Not Shubhankar Sharma. His father Col. Mohan Sharma, formerly of the Indian army, took him along when he went out on the course. “My dad bought a set and I would tag along with him on the course.” Sharma said. “After a month or two, he got me a cut-down two-iron. That was my first club.”
- He’s part of an elite club
Following his two wins earlier in the season, Sharma joined Luke Donald, Jeunghun Wang and Jon Rahm as the only players in the last twenty years to win twice on the European Tour in their first 20 starts.
- He’s part of a young brigade
Having won twice before his 22nd birthday, Sharma joined Matteo Manassero, Jeunghun Wang and Matt Fitzpatrick as the only European Tour members to achieve that feat since 2000.
- He’s had a record year already
Despite being only three months into the year, Sharma is the only player currently ranked in the top 75 in the world who started the year ranked outside the top 200.
- He uses meditation to help his game
Being from a traditional Indian home with a strong religious presence, Sharma has a strong spiritual side. “I was brought up in a religious household and the presence of God in our home was always strong. It’s from that I began meditating which I do from time to time… This allows me to recalibrate and allows me to stay very grounded.”
- He is a Manchester United fan
Being from India, Sharma loves his cricket but is also an avid football fan, particularly when it comes to Manchester United. He says he tries to watch as much as he can when he is on the road and his hope is that he will be able to attend a game when the European Tour visits England later this year.
(Read more in the April issue of Golf Digest India. Download here.)